Last night it was all about the 3′s for the Miami HEAT. Getting a 3rd Win, Hitting some 3 Pointers, witnessing 3 flagrant fouls. A telling ending quote/spelling lesson from Larry Legend who wore the number 33. This game had it all.
As such, the game began with a 3 pointer, the HEAT got their 3rd win in resounding fashion, beating the Pacers heartily 115-83. 3 flagrant fouls awarded with reviews-suspensions likely to follow (2 for the HEAT). Ending quote from Larry Legend, the old 33? “I can’t believe my team went soft. S-O-F-T.”
Soft it was, indeed. The Indiana Pacers played the real-fake-tough guy for 48 minutes during the onslaught provided by the HEAT on both ends of the floor. Before the school-time on the court and the press room following Tuesday’s game, many questions have been lingering about the HEAT’s inconsistencies, including their recent poor outside shooting, the team’s ability to defend the big-man with Bosh out, if Wade/James could even lift the heavy scoring load and win without him, and finally- Who’s Bad? (As the other MJ would say, or “who’s the real tough-guy” if you’ve been following this series’ story-line thus far).
All were answered convincingly in game 5, as follows:
1. HEAT issues with outside shooting: Over the earlier 4 games, the 3 point sniper tandem of Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and off-rotation James Jones was shooting an ice-cold sub-20% from 3 point land. As expected, Shane Battier got the start again for the HEAT with Bosh out, and converted immediately from behind the arc to start the game with a 3 Pointer. He rang in 2 more before the end of Quarter 1, finished 4-5 for the night and setting the pace early and often for the HEAT. Unsung hero of the game.
2. Bosh is out, defending the big-men: The HEAT managed to hold the Pacers tonight to only 3 players in double digit scoring for a total of 31 points. Throughout the series, they’ve limited the Pacers, even without Bosh, to 40% scoring. Game 5 was a hopeless 33.7% (won’t even round it up to 34%, that bad), with West and Granger rendered useless throughout the game. They also punished Hansbrough (more to follow on that), Hibbert, West, Vogel, anyone coming through the lane by rotating any number of 9-10 defenders. With the HEAT’s speed, any spacing was quickly erased, closing out the middle and taking away the Pacer’s only real advantage in the series. Rony Touriaf was a beast in the middle, playing quality minutes and adding to Indiana’s headaches all night.
3. D-Wade and LeBron James’ heavy lifting: Not-so-heavy; Another double-hero night by the Big 2, the highlight reels alone are worth the time to watch for pure enjoyment. Stats-wise, LeBron led the charge with 30-10-8 night; with Wade closely behind with 28 points. Not the 40-30 scoring they posted Sunday, but IMPRESSIVE on all sides of the floor. Hustle on defense, fast-paced in-transition basketball, slashing and dunking and running and gunning and stomping the very will from an inept Pacers defense. They could do whatever they wanted to last night, whenever they wanted to do it. LeBron for 3? 2 for 2. Wade to the hole? 3 and-one’s from the field, making it to the free-throw line for 13 attempts. With Chris Bosh out, this series has been a daunting challenge on both sides of the ball, but these two have deciphered the code to just-get-the-win playing their style of basketball, which is just one word: Domination. Through this, the HEAT have delivered the much anticipated and needed dominant performance without Chris Bosh, which is only good news for them and bad news for the rest of the league.
4. Who’s Bad? Last but not least….answer to the question…is the HEAT. HEAT’s Bad, and they showed what Bad really was when the chips fell last night.
The Pacers set the series of events in motion, pretty much from the podium before game 1. With Indiana Coach Frank Vogel lamenting the HEAT’s defense as the “worst flopping team in the League,” to Pacer’s Danny Granger’s every-game in someone’s face, consecutive flagrant/technical fouls over 3 nights performance. Then there was Lance Stephenson’s “choke” sign from the bench during game 3, to which veteran Juwan Howard was ready to regulate on in game 4. All events seemed to culminate Sunday, with Udonis Haslem taking an elbow requiring stitches and a now-famous bandaid, which was inspiration to a novelty give-away for HEAT fans who attended game 5. If only the beef was left in Indiana.
The fallout resembled a gangster movie, with the Pacers “Starting-Something” (More MJ!) in the 2nd quarter again, an aggressive foul on Dwyane Wade’s shot underneath by Tyler Hansbrough, who raked his face and drew blood resulting in a Flagrant 1 call. Udonis Haslem entered the game immediately, bandaged face, scowled face and not even a minute later, returned the favor to Hansbrough with a hard foul of his own. Flagrant 1 is called again, and then it became proverbally ON at the AAA with retaliation the order of the day. Adding insult to injury, in the final moments of the game while up by 30+, Dexter Pittman entered the game and took his own shots on Lance Stephenson with an elbow, and another flagrant 1. In the end, beef was squashed by countering acts that sent a clear message to all, this HEAT team is B-A-D.
While the violence, especially from Pittman was a bit much, the message sent was clear and was received well and often by the Pacers throughtout the night. They were deserving of this school-lesson, and after Thursday’s Game 6 they will have a few months uninterrupted to rethink their attitudes while on playoff “time-out.” Great win by the HEAT, tone is set to close out and move along to the Eastern Conference Finals.